Following four acclimation period practices which started last Thursday, Liberty's football program was able to don full pads for the first time this August, taking to the turf inside Williams Stadium on a sweltering Monday afternoon.
According to head coach Danny Rocco, the Flames were coming off their best practice of August, as the fifth-year skipper was very impressed with his squad following yesterday afternoon's workout in shells. However, Rocco could not say the same today, as he laid a stern charge on his squad following today's practice.
After Liberty's first full practice in full pads, LibertyFlames.com had a chance to catch up with Rocco, asking him the following questions regarding his team and what he has seen since training camp opened last week.
What Have You Seen from Your Squad So Far During Training Camp? So far, it has been really good. We have had good energy and good enthusiasm and I think our effort has been very good. I like the way our leadership is coming into play. We are well advanced in terms of our installation, as our kids have a very good idea of our offensive and defensive packages and schemes. There is a lot to be happy about and pleased with, but today was not as good.
We came out here today and I think we gave into the elements a little bit. It was 90-plus degrees with the humidity out here and I think we faded a little bit. I don't think we had the focus and intensity that you need to have to be a championship football team. I told them that after practice today and I'm hoping they will respond.
Can You Attribute Today's Lackluster Effort to the First Day in Full Pads? I would say no, because what usually happens for us in the first day of pads, we have a series of drills that we do that show up on this particular day. These are really "bloody your nose" types of drills. The kids know that and they know what the practice schedule is every day. When we get to that part of practice, we usually get more of a spirited effort and intensity. It was not quite there today, but we certainly will get it back. We certainly had it yesterday and I know we will get it back soon. Today was just a day that was a function of the heat and being out here in the middle of the afternoon, plus they were coming off a pretty good go of it yesterday. We have to respond a little better tomorrow with our first two-a-day.
Which Group(s) Have Stood Out So Far This Training Camp? I think there are a couple groups that are standing out from the others. First, this linebacking corps is pretty good. When I look at the way we are lined up right now, with Brent Vinson and Danny Broggin playing that adjuster position, we just have so much speed out on the field. We've got the ability to cover the entire field with speed and pressure. Inside with Kyle O'Donnell and Doncel Bolt and Chad Brown, we've got three senior veteran players who really know how to play this defense and are having really good camps. Mike Connolly at the drop and Demetrius Ward, who is playing behind him, are very solid, so I've been really pleased with that element of our defense. I think on the back end in our secondary, like I've been saying for quite some time, we've got competition and depth and that is always an exciting thing.
Offensively, Mike Brown has been really solid at quarterback and our receivers are making some big plays. Chris Summer has been outstanding on the field and B.J. Hayes and Ervin Garner both have been really good. Pat Kelly continues to impress me, as he is just a solid receiver. We've got a lot things going well right there in the passing game. Also, I think our tight end position is a position that might just surprise some people with (Tommy) Shaver, (Matthias) Wrede and Francis Bah and Steven Wilkes. These are a couple of groups that have shown us improvement from when we departed in the spring.
What are you expecting from Your Team during Your First Two-a-Day Practice Tomorrow? I'm expecting them to respond tomorrow morning. I think they will come out here and it will be in the morning, which is a lot earlier and less hot, and I'm hoping they are much more understanding of the intensity that this practice will need to be a success. In the afternoon, I'm expecting them to respond to the demands of having to sustain, focus and finish to a second practice. These will be some very big points of emphasis for us tomorrow. I fully expect tomorrow that we will have a very physical practice and a very productive morning and afternoon.
Liberty is scheduled to hold its first two-a-day practice tomorrow. The Flames will be "on the line" for their first practice at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, following by a lighter workout in the afternoon, which will start at 3 p.m. Both workouts will last roughly two hours.
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